Driving through New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward – the neighbourhood worst affected by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina – the devastation that left 80% of the city underwater for months, took more than 1800 lives and destroyed countless homes and businesses is still palpable. Wrecked houses, left abandoned just like the hospitals, schools and public buildings downtown, are still branded with spray painted symbols, a chilling reminder of the massive search and rescue effort that went on here and the staggering number of bodies found in the attics of 9th Ward family homes. Amidst this ongoing nightmare it’s encouraging to see New Orleans’ latest celebrity residents, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, using their star power for good. The Make It Right campaign has pledged to build 150 homes in the Lower 9th Ward that are affordable, durable and weather-proof. In the process, they are offering hope to hundreds of displaced residents and setting new standards for green building in North America.
Make It Right homes are easy to spot – they are brightly coloured and come in a variety of unconventional shapes and sizes. They are also the only homes in the Lower 9th Ward that show signs of life: gardens filled with newly-planted seedlings, clothes hanging out to dry, people sitting on porches. Every house is elevated high above the ground and features a roof escape hatch, some of the measures introduced to protect residents against future flooding. Around 75 of the pre-fabricated homes have already been constructed, with new building sites popping up every week.
The new Lower 9th Ward – what the US Green Building Council calls the ‘largest, greenest neighbourhood of single family homes in America’ – has earned their highest distinction for energy efficiency and sustainability through the use of cutting-edge materials and designs. This includes the use of metal roofing for insulation, solar panels and rainwater cisterns for energy and water sustainability. Tankless water heaters and energy efficient appliances and lights are staples of every house. Inside, cabinets and fittings are made with Forest Stewardship Council certified wood and carpets are made from recycled materials and eco-friendly dyes. Importantly, Make It Right houses are also well-equipped for extreme weather with rot-resistant dry board and hurricane-proof window fabrics.
As Make It Right approach their 150 house goal, the campaign continues to help the Lower 9th Ward with community initiatives like building playgrounds and ongoing fundraising. To learn more about Make It Right, you can visit their website.